The Parable of the Tenants; Reflecting on Matthew 21:33-43

by Solana Oliver
Source: Public Domain


“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir.Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.


For me, this is one of Jesus’ hardest parables. This is not a parable of forgiveness and love but of the truth of our faith. He calls us to bear fruit for the kingdom of God or it shall be taken from us, just like the tenants of the vineyard. In layman’s terms, we have to do his will or risk never knowing the splendor of heaven. This is really scary to think about.

We are called to be perfection, though perfection is impossible. Our mission is to serve others and live as best we can. For me, this story is a reminder to never become a lazy Catholic. We have all been there, thinking we don’t have to go to church or we don’t have to forgive those who have wronged us. This can lead us astray from God and our humanity. Sometimes we need a reminder of what happens when we aren’t vigilant and always living for our fellow humans. This story is one of those reminders. Let this gospel light a fire under your butt to do more than you are because our work is never done. We must constantly ask ourselves the Vincentian question: what must be done.